The Joy Beyond the Pain
This life will steal your joy unless it is rooted in eternity. We grasp and grope for joy like patrons of a brothel, denying that true love waits for us at Home. Joy is not to be found here. We must hope for Home. If we can do this, the eternal Joy of heaven will pierce our wounded hearts with the light of Christ.
In The Edge of Eternity, Randy Alcorn imagines what it will be like to experience true joy in heaven, as compared to the joys we now experience. The man who enters into the golden gates of glory says, “This is joy itself. Every foretaste of joy in the Shadowlands [Earth] was, but the stab, the pang, the inconsolable longing for this place! How could anyone be satisfied with less than this?” (p. 309). The joys of life before heaven will always be marred with grief.
The sweetest tasting fruit always turns putrid. Streaks of gold and glittering shapes of promise light the sky’s morning moments, yet darkness always follows. Love lights the heart like blazing fire, but death comes to snuff out the purest flame with crushing despair. Grief always follows jubilation.
Highs always convert to lows. Tears follow laughs. Achievements fade. Death.
It is a human constant in this fallen world—a law of nature—that happiness is always followed by despair. No joyful moment or experience shields us from the inevitable entropy of our happiness. The joy of a puppy turns to the tears of an old dead dog. The bliss of marriage ends in the gut-wrenching parting of the grave. Promotion always ends in retirement. The joyful union of love is always broken by lashes of life.
Yet most people live for these happy moments. Are they ignorant of their end? Do they not realize that their lust for happiness determines their bitter fate? Why do we instinctively crave wealth like infant hands piercing the womb with clenched fists of desire? We grasp and grope, yet all our hands will lie with palms open in the grave. “The pursuit of happiness” is the American dream. But perhaps it is a nightmare. Certainly, it’s an unwinnable game—toiling day after day under the beating sun to gain people and things that will perish before we do or after. Happiness is not the inevitable result of life; death is. How do we daily—hourly—pursue this happiness when life guarantees it will be ripped from our hands forever?
“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher.
We think that we can accomplish in our little lives something that thousands or millions of years of billions or trillions of humans have been unable to do—be happy.